Game Review

Pokémon Conquest Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Joe Walker

Resistance is feudal

Peanut butter and chocolate, Chris Farley and David Spade, Marvel and Capcom. Taking two great things and smashing them together is a long-standing tradition of the human experience. Now, in the year 2012, another legendary combination can be etched into the annals of history – Pokémon and Nobunaga’s Ambition.

Pokémon is the flaky crust and Nobunaga’s Ambition the warm gooey centre in the delicious treat that is Pokémon Conquest, blending the two series into an irresistible strategy RPG. There's enough depth to satisfy die-hard stat junkies, yet it's manageable enough for those migrating from the mainline Pokémon franchise who may have never experienced grid-based combat.

The story takes place in the Ransei region, modelled after Sengoku-era feudal Japan, where rather than capturing Pokémon and carrying them around in Pokéballs, Warriors “link” with their monster partners and send them into battle against opposing armies. There are 17 kingdoms, each helmed by a Warlord, and local legend states that once all 17 territories are united under a single Warlord the Pokémon who created the land will appear and shape the world to that Warlord’s whim. It’s nothing super complex, but it functions well enough to progress the game and provide context for the new style of Pokémon battles.

Anyone familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics A2 – or any other grid-based strategy RPG, really – will immediately feel right at home with Pokémon Conquest’s battle system. Up to six members of your army are sent to the field against an opposing squad. Genre mainstays like positioning and terrain all come into play, forcing you to pay attention to where you and your opponents are at all times, with the extra strategic layer of the “rock-paper-scissors” system that is the crux of the Pokémon franchise added on top. It all works wonderfully together, truly taking the best parts of both franchises involved and crafting something truly fun and engaging.

The battlefields aren’t very large, which works just fine for a DS game. What they lack in surface area they make up for in other ways; different kingdoms have themes that will affect the battlefield in unique ways. Ignis, for example, is a fire-themed kingdom, and every so often volcanic boulders will fall randomly onto the field.

While Nintendo ditched the “gotta catch ‘em all” tagline around the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance, the philosophy has remained at the core of the series and Pokémon Conquest falls in line. Rather than catching wild Pokémon, however, Warriors can be battled and recruited instead. It’s pretty much the same thing, because you’ll really be looking at the Pokémon they use anyway. The Warriors all have long Japanese names and frequently reuse the same sprites so trying to keep track of them will certainly take some extra focus.

That’s not all there is to them, though; every Warrior has a specific Pokémon that they can form a Perfect Link with, which allows that Pokémon to grow much stronger than usual. It can become very addictive trying to find a Perfect Link for every Warrior in your army, but it’s a very rewarding system. Opposing wild Pokémon will have either bronze, silver or gold medals above their heads on the field when different Warriors are selected, indicating their compatibility. To form a link with that Pokémon, a very basic rhythm game ensues where you must tap the A button in time with glowing yellow orbs. Do well enough and that 'mon is added to your arsenal.

What’s a shame is that not every Pokémon is included. There are only about 200 available out of a potential 649, practically guaranteeing that not everyone will be able to obtain their favourites. While it would take a technical miracle to fit that many Pokémon into a game of this scope, it’s disappointing nonetheless.

On top of all this are abilities that can be used by both Pokémon and Warrior alike. Warrior abilities can only be used once per battle and do not count against your turn, and do things like heal Pokémon, increase their range or stats or remove negative effects from your army. Pokémon abilities are similar to the main series of games but are applied in new ways; for example, Sandile’s Intimidate ability will lower the Attack stat of any opposing Pokémon in range each turn.

While at first glance the sheer amount of things to keep track of and experiment with seems daunting, the game does a good job explaining it in manageable chunks and keeping it from becoming overwhelming all at once. It all comes together to add an immense amount of replay value to the game, allowing for immense customisation that Pokémon fans have grown accustomed to. Battles move at a brisk pace and rarely feel like a slog by offering many different ways of continuously rewarding players. Of course, it’s a Pokémon game, so wireless multiplayer battles are in as well.

The game looks beautiful, making fantastic use of colour to bring the world of Ransei to life, which is an impressive feat considering just about everything outside of battle is presented with static sprite work. Every kingdom has a distinct personality to it, making them as varied as the Warriors themselves. The Warlords are all based on actual historical Japanese figures (although generous liberties were taken when designing them) and their designs, staples of the Nobunaga’s Ambition and Samurai Warriors series, work quite well when presented next to Nintendo’s iconic Pocket Monsters. Many are even modelled to look like their Pokémon partners as well.

The sound is impressive for a handheld title to boot. Pokémon cries are simply ported over from the main games, but battle sound effects are clear and satisfying. The music isn’t particularly memorable, but it does an admirable job giving the game feel like it belongs in feudal Japan.


Pokémon Conquest is a game that no one asked for, but many will enjoy — fans of either series will be drawn in by the familiar and be taught to love what’s new. It does just about everything right, though there are shortcomings: more Pokémon being included would have helped, as would a deeper story – Pokémon Black and White showed that the monster-catching series is capable of telling a story with some heft to it. These are little more than nicks in the armour, though. Pokémon Conquest absolutely stands with Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Puzzle League as one of the best spin-offs the franchise has seen.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

This is your next Pokémon title, fans: Pokémon Conquest, the translated version of Japanese title Pokémon + Nobunaga's Ambition. Find out more at http://www.nintendolife.com/gam

User Comments (87)



Kloudzdale said:

I was gonna get this, but I'm done buying DS games...
Hopefully Nintendo makes a sequel or remakes it for 3DS sometime. It looks really fun.



Bankai said:

Nope. Lost me when you said it had depth.

This game is an insult to Nobunaga's Ambition.



Geonjaha said:

The problem with more and more Pokemon being added all the time to the series is that whenever a Pokemon game is made, someone complains that "They arent all here!". Theres 649 - you cant expect them in all every game.

@LollipopChoSaw - Nobunaga's Ambition is an insult to itself. :3

Good review though - it's just not a game I'd ever be interested in.



Spoony_Tech said:

This will be the first pokemon game i buy in years. Loos really good and i love this genre. Good review!



Wheels2050 said:

@Waltz: how would you feel if it had not had the Nobunaga name attached? (That's not a rhetorical question, I'm actually interested).



Ernest_The_Crab said:

@Joe Walker I heard from a couple of people that the box for the game listed it having some 3DS features. Would you be able to verify this?



Skotski said:

May I just say that SPOILER

I was surprised that the entire game was a tutorial for the after-game?
I saw all the mechanics hidden within the game (I'm a huge fan of the Romance [a Tactical Simulator similar to Nobunaga's Ambition] series, so I'm quite familiar with what "could and couldn't be in the game"), but was saddened to see that none of them were available from the get-go...

But as you start the after-game, that's where it REALLY gets interesting.
Being able to upgrade the Shops, Areas to catch Pokemon, and etc is definitely nice (especially when you unlock new areas, such as ones that allow you to change your Pokemon's main ability). Collecting more Warriors and Pokemon for the Gallery is also beyond just a simple badge-like system: as you'll be able to keep your Warriors for multiplayer as well as have their specific Pokemon links for other playthroughs (allowing you to recruit far more powerful Warriors early on) - and Pokemon will keep their evolutions and Abilities . The added difficulty (enemy groups will now actively build up their teams, capture new Pokemon, recruit new Warriors [even ones you've dismissed from your team... be wary of facing your high-leveled retired Warriors on the enemy side], and even attack your and other enemy fortresses aggressively) and [few] random events (such as bandits stealing one of your items) REALLY makes the game worth its money for Strategy-fanatics like myself.

One last thing I love about it: Strategy makes a difference.
I've always disliked Pokemon for its extreme rock-paper-scissors mechanics, despite being a fan of the Pokemon series... mostly because it doesn't matter what your favorite Pokemon is: If it isn't the best-stat-based Pokemon in the game, it WILL lose against others in multiplayer.
In this game? Doesn't matter if your Pokemon is weaker against the opponent in stats: If you can use the environment to your advantage, you CAN win.
I've faced an enemy group of six high-leveled enemy invaders, they attacked one of my almost-forgotten fortresses which had low-leveled Warriors and Pokemon... there were only four of them. Four against six, even at a worse disadvantage due to the enemy holding the stronger types (we all were weak to their attacks): And I still won through careful planning and using the field to my advantage (Using barriers to distance attacks, launching obstacles towards the enemy, and using stat debilitation) .

To me, that's what Pokemon's supposed to be like. Not all stats-stats-stats, but a hard won battle with strategy.



Shotgunryugan said:

I'll be definitely picking this up when the price drops,I am a fan of both franchises.
I am a bit disappointed with the number of pokemon available,but i can deal with it.



Bankai said:

@Miss_Birdo And?... Tecmo Koei is my favourite developer/ publisher. This game is still an insult to my favourite Tecmo Koei franchise.

Oh right, you thought I was playing silly fanboy games and having a go at Nintendo. Aw, sorry to disappoint you. Nice try though.

@Wheels - I would still think it was an overly simple SRPG. But at least we wouldnt have critics going gaga over its 'depth' because it has the Nobunaga's license attached.

It's funny, in Japan the critics seemed to get it. Over there it got reasonably positive reviews, but it was recognised for what it is - a strategy game aimed for kids. What does it say about the English speaking world that over here that same strategy passes for 'deep.'

No wonder Tecmo Koei stopped localising the real Nobunaga's Ambition.



rjejr said:

@Geonjaha - I agree. Most Pokemon games have about 150 Pokemon in them, this game could be commended, not condemned, for having 200.

I have no idea what Nobonuga Ambition is, has it even come out in the US? AS a father I like the idea of mixing the Pokemon into a new genre which I see as a step above on the learning curve - chess vs. checkers. I'ld much rather have them playing something like this than yet another normal Pokemon game. I may even play this myself and I have no use for Pokemon.
If it had online or local vs. we would have bought it already.



CanisWolfred said:

Comparing this to FFTA2 does little to improve my enthusiasm in this game. While it's nice that you do conquer territories and recuit warriors, I really wish it was more like Nobunaga's Ambition, where economic, political, social, and territorial factors play a part in the overall game. Even highly simplified versions of these gameplay aspects would've been greatly appreciated.

I'm actually glad they simplified the name down to Pokemon Conquest. Though it's still somewhat decieving (I wanted to conquer the Pokemon world...), it really is a better name. From the sounds of it, it seems to be, at best, barely a step up from an introductory SRPG - having slightly more depth than FFTA (which is a low as the genre can go), but still good for those who aren't very well familiar with strategy games. I suppose I can appreciate that, but I have Tactics Ogre, Disgaea 4, SRWZ2, even Eternal Poison - I just don't need a game like this.



Skotski said:

I'd think people are saying it's a Pokemon game with more depth. Er... depth that isn't stat-based.

Being able to win without obsession over stats and type-advantages definitely adds more depth to Pokemon-battling.It is indeed nowhere near as deep as Nobunaga's Ambition - but it still has depth to it. The entire first part of the game (which is the entire main storyline) is utterly basic, but at least the after-game adds to it. Not an amazing amount, but enough to satisfy those who were waiting to figure out where the challenge was.

Honestly, if it weren't for Pokemon's deep stat-building process that many people focus on: Pokemon would be too simple and basic. This is an improvement from that. At least, an improvement in a different direction.

It does have a local vs. I actually kind of prefer it over the normal Pokemon battling system.
In fact, I think the entire game is focused on the local vs: collecting Warriors and upgrading them and their Pokemon for your Gallery seems to be the main focus for those who want to replay the game. And the whole point of filling your Gallery is so you have stronger choices for local multiplayer battles (there's also the point of giving you the advantage for the harder-difficulty missions post-game, but that's not as necessary).



Skotski said:

I think in the end those who are die-hard strategists who are familiar with strategy games that few people have heard of outside of big-named advertised ones (AKA: Anything other than Final Fantasy Tactics) would be seriously disappointed if they expected the same "depth" for this game.

Those who aren't those kind of strategists, or those who didn't expect anything beyond a simple spin-off (...I've played every spin-off title for the Pokemon series. My expectations for them aren't that high. ), will be very satisfied in what they find in this game.



Marioman64 said:

this game is like a fire emblem to me, and I say that as a game designer and player. this is one of those games that I would really love if I liked the genre. I'm sure many people felt that way about kid icarus saying "if I loved rail shooters this would be fantastic"
that said, the game is amazing and executed beautifully, but it's not a genre that I love. regardless I still bought it because I love pokemon and I thought maybe that would bring me into the japanese-warlord-battle genre that's so popular in japan. its working a bit, i'm definitely not a strategy game player, but I still enjoy this title, and that's saying something



Wheels2050 said:

@Waltz: Fair enough. I wasn't sure if you thought that it was shallow, or just shallow compared to Nobunaga (which I haven't played).

I'll keep thinking about it. If only I could understand Japanese, I'd grab a proper Nobunaga game - all the factors you need to consider make it sound right up my alley. (It sounds somewhat like the Total War series, which I absolutely love).



Bankai said:

@Wheels - if you have an iPhone there is a Nobunaga's Ambition game on the app store.

The games are ridiculously deep strategy games that focus on building a nation, rather than the combat. They belong more to a sub-genre called "Grand Strategy" than anything else. It's a reasonably popular genre on PC, but never really made its way to consoles.

@#20 - as far as I'm concerned a game loses its right to call itself 'deep' when the tactics you need to win are immediately obvious. A good, genuine, strategy game has multiple layers of strategic depth, not just "oh, must flank! must use terrain!" - the "depth" of this game covers roughly the first two pages of a military strategy handbook. Especially with the AI as braindead as it is.



Skotski said:

There's also trying the Romance series.

Similar to it. Not exactly the same, but has its own charm.

A strategy game loses its right to call itself 'deep' when there isn't much strategy in the first place. (not saying that this is particularly deep, but am saying that I agree with you if you put "strategy game" instead of just "game" )
True enough that this game isn't a strategy player's dream come true, but honestly it has more depth than most Pokemon games. You can figure out who's going to win or lose the instant you see the opponent's roster and movesets in Pokemon. Can't particularly do that in this game.
I guess it's the idea: Are you comparing this to Nobunaga's Ambition or to Pokemon?
If giving it its own merit: It's a good beginner's guide to strategy RPGs with a capturing mechanic - worth its price on a Nintendo handheld when so few strategy games touch Nintendo handhelds (if you prefer your strategy outside of this, then it's worth only a third of its price if you don't care for battling other players with your favorite Pokemon).
Compared to Nobunaga's Ambition, you are personally disappointed.Compared to Pokemon, I am personally satisfied.

...it also helps that I didn't expect much from this title. It is a spin-off, afterall.
And honestly I find it better than most Japanese strategy games that make it big on consoles these days... where leveling is all one cares about.
Also: I have someone to play against every day. I don't just see brain-dead AIs all day long.
Which is similar to Pokemon: If all you do is go against are the AI trainers, then a well-prepared person never loses and the game gets somewhat stale.



Wheels2050 said:

@Skotski: Thanks, but unfortunately I don't have any systems that the Romance games are on!

As I said, I play the Total War series, which probably could be classed as 'grand strategy'. Rome: Total War is one of the best games I've ever played, and I've also got Shogun 2 and Medieval (I'm yet to really play either of those).

EDIT: Scratch that. I had a closer look on Wikipedia, and they were released on PC. I'll have to have a look into them!



Lunapplebloom said:

I have been interested in seeing how this fared. Looks like fun. I'll be sure to pick up a copy in the future.



Bankai said:

@Wheels - the Total War games aren't really Grand Strategy. They're about as complex as RTS come, and I love them - they are indeed strategic - but they are "just" RTS games.

For a Grand Strategy game you're looking at something more like Sengoku, Hearts of Iron, or Crusader Kings 2. They're in a different league entirely. Nobumaga's Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms are the closest to those PC games that consoles see.



bonesy91 said:

lol the caption reminds me of Code Monkeys.

Might check this out down the road. Nice review.



MagicTomato said:

I'm getting the impression that people don't think that the regular Pokemon series has deep gameplay. Have any of you actually played competitive Pokemon? Like, with people who actually know what they're doing?



retro_player_22 said:

@LollipopChoSaw Insult? This was made by the ppl who created Nobunaga's Ambition, how could it be an insult? That's like saying Super Mario Bros. 2 is an insult to Doki Doki Panic, they are made by the same guy in the same company.



Megumi said:

Maybe in the sequel it'll be on the 3DS and have the rest of the Pokemon.
Not as great as the main games, but I'm enjoying it.



OptometristLime said:

Am I the only one who found the final score disappointing? After a glowing review, that 2-star deduction seemed unwarranted. Sometimes I wish reviewers would assign a rating based on how well they enjoyed the game. Just saying.



DrKarl said:

I picked this up earlier this week, and plan to dig in after I finish Xenoblade. I have always wanted to play Nobunaga's Ambition and some of the other Koei games, but never had enough patience to learn the complicated system.

Is anyone here familiar with both Nobunaga's Ambition on the SNES & Pokemon Conquest? If so, would you say that Pokemon Conquest is a good intro game to Nobunaga's Ambition? How similar are the systems, and will knowledge of the system learned in Conquest translate to Ambition?




BulbasaurusRex said:

I enjoyed Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones as a 3DS Ambassador, so I'll be sure to pick this up some time.



Wheels2050 said:

@Waltz: Haha OK I should have looked up the definition of grand strategy!

I've read reviews for the Hearts of Iron games but never played them. Mayhaps I'll check them out!



paburrows said:

So as someone who's not into Pokemon, but loves stratagy games like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 1 & 2 is this a game that I would enjoy? I'm intregued by it.



Retro_on_theGo said:

@Waltzelf errr, @LollipopChoSaw Would you say the game is still worth getting if I'm getting into SRPG games and love Pokemon? Lack of depth and difficulty is worrying me. Especially with B/W 2 around the corner. (not that their incredibly deep games, I'm just really looking forward to them)



Malkeor said:

I heard so many great things about this game.

If you like strategy games, you might want to pick this up... It might surprise you.



Megumi said:

@Retro: It gets somewhat hard for me later on, I went on to fight the team that had bird Pokemon, thinking it would be a breeze with my rocks and whatnot and they took me out. T.T



CanisWolfred said:

@retro_player_22 That's...the worst analogy you could've put out. Yes, it's Koei, but this is absolutely nothing like their other games. Granted, I personally consider Koei a shadow of its former self, mostly incapable of producing the game with exceptional depth that they were once reknowned for, and this does nothing to change that judgment.



Xilef said:

Can someone please answer how many svae-files this game has? I'm assuming it's just one since pretty much all Pokemon games only has one, but i want to know anyway.



Slapshot said:

Great review Joe!

I've dropped about 20 hours into Pokémon Conquest so far, and I've heard so many people call the game shallow, but the game is pretty much a tutorial until you hit around the 10 hour mark, when the game truly opens itself up and you'll find that there's a healthy bit of depth in this title — far more than I expected to find.

Also, if you're a fan of the Warriors' titles, then you'll absolutely love the soundtrack!

With a massive single player quest that clocks in around the 100 hour mark and multiplayer, you'll definitely get you're money's worth too!



Megumi said:

Ugh, evolving certain Pokemon is tricky...lol. When Serebii or whatever talks about Speed, is that Range here? They apparently like to use Japanese terms, which kinda throw me off here and there. (like they use Tension instead of Energy and all that. >.> )



Phle said:

Not sure about this, perhaps I'll get it. Sounds okay, just a tad disappointed that there isn't a 3DS version.



samuelduh said:

Its honestly not as good as it looks, playing for a hours doing the same thing over and over and over to be honest it gets boring...



KaiserGX said:

@LollipopChoSaw I meant blame them for Nobunaga's Ambition not this game. Blame them for making it so good.

You really think I am playing Fanboy games with you? You recommended Samurai Warriors to me man. To this day I played most early Koei games.



Chunky_Droid said:

'Anyone familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics A2 – or any other grid-based strategy RPG, really – will immediately feel right at home with Pokémon Conquest’s battle system.'





Two great things don't always work. Take pickles and chocolate for example. Or Sony and Nintendo. Or Chocolate Pudding and EX-LAX. O.K. those do work together but not for the greater good.



CowLaunch said:

"These are little more than nicks in the armour."

My brother is called Nick, so I find this sentence offensive.



CowLaunch said:

That there are only 200 Pokemon rather than the legion currently in existence is a big plus for me.

Probably get this.



Kitsune_Rei said:

I've been really liking it so far, I enjoy tactics games and I've been taking my time with my first playthrough and have already racked up some hours. I'm glad there aren't more Pokemon and warriors, it gets to be a lot of things to micromanage if you want to shoot for the best pairings. I think the little minigame to link with a Pokemon is cute.
My only real disappointment is you can't pass Pokemon between warriors.



SaSoBe said:

Of course, I would have liked this to be a 3DS game. However, I believe it will be a fun one anyway. I'll pick it up when it comes here and judge it then. ;p

I would like a new Mystery Dungeon, however. Have anyone heard of any rumors for a new one?



RyanI said:

Im a former game producer and I worked w/ nintendo for about 2 weeks to help make heart gold and soul silver... Now ive been playing pkmn. Since I was a kid and in my opinion they cracked the franchise with this game.. To me they should just stick with the original motives.



GamerZack87 said:

@SaSoBe I'd rather Nintendo localise the WiiWare Mystery Dungeon games first.

I agree wholeheartedly with the review! My friend bought it for me, and I must say I'm enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would (which was quite a lot to begin with). I'm going to dawdle with the main game for a while though so I can download all the Warlord-recruitment events. Motochika and Motonari are just the first two! I need more allies!



oninowon said:

If you like strategy rpgs then you'll love this interpretation of Pokemon. If you have never tried a strategy rpg then this is a good intro with enough depth to give you more challenge later in the game. I've heard the game really opens up later in the game so it may become more challenging later in the game.



Thrillhaus said:

@LollipopChoSaw that is entirely - horrible. There's no doubt about it, it just is. It's not a NA game, so there is absolutely no reason to be up in arms about it "being an insult" to a franchise that the game isn't even a part of. Lighten up.



lucianaeevee said:

It' quite expensive for a spin off, but i think all pokemon spin offs are actually pretty decent and fun, as it's a different plot to catching them all, keep it up!



ZinogreMaster said:

@OlympicCho Dang, I mean come on! At least give it a chance! Its a game that does have depth, I've actually played it so I suggest until you've played the game lighten up a bit, okay?



Hamtaro said:

Im saving up for pokemon White 2 so theres little chance Im geting this game.



DarkCoolEdge said:

I've been reading reviews and now I'm sure. This is going to be my first pokemon game since gbc's silver.

Too bad I can't just walk into the store and get it, it hasn't been released in Spain :s

Bad nintendo ibérica, you've been bad.



Seanmyster6 said:

I'll look into this after I've burned out my copy of "Projectu Crossu Zone". Or else get it as a Christmas present for my Poke-fan little brother.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...